Tag Archives: beth kanter

Reflecting on climate change and #nptech

List of five people and distances travelled to NTEN's conference, March 2014Three tonnes of CO2.

That’s the ballpark estimate for how much of the climate changing carbon that will be emitted on my behalf, for my flights to the Nonprofit Technology Conference.

It’s a long way to Washington DC for me. It’s over 14,000 kilometres from my home on the west coast of Te Ika a Maui, New Zealand’s northern island.

Living close to the sea with a coastline threatened by rising sea levels is another reason for my concern. If we don’t reduce (or limit) the level of carbon in the atmosphere, I’ll likely suffer. As will my children. And their children too.

Some of my South Pacific neighbours are already finding sea water rising perilously close to their homes.

Knowing that my flights, in whatever small way on a global scale, contribute to climate change isn’t something I can truthfully ignore. It’d be easy to brush my insignificant contribution under a handy carpet. After all, my flight is hardly unusual. Why should I do anything about it?

It was looking at Beth’s presentation from her talk on individual social responsibility at TedXBerkeley in February that really spurred me to act.

Writing earlier about this topic after some personal philanthropy in India, Beth talks about “taking small actions that collectively can add up to changes.”

So, what am I doing?

My first response was to consider planting a small forest on our section. Then call it Washington DC forest as reminder of my obligation to the planet.

Before looking into this in any detail, my sister – who is an environmental planner – dissuaded me. Any trees not planted in certified scheme won’t guarantee carbon is locked away she said.

Giving $100-120 dollars to a certified carbon sequestration scheme would be easy. A one-off payment and my carbon problem is wiped.

It was only after talking with my friend and mentor Andrew Mahar, that I’ve decided how to discharge my climate responsibility.

As an inspirational leader Andrew never shies away from tackling difficult social and environmental challenges. Currently he is supporting a multi-faceted social enterprise in Timor Leste (the recently liberated nation in the Western Pacific). Prior to this he set up and led Infoxchange, a highly successful Australian nptech social business.

The WithOneSeed initiative supports subsistence farmers in East Timor to reafforest their land. Donations from people living in industrialised countries to pay for trees and other essential support. Incomes rise and carbon is locked away. Knowledge transfer is occurring alongside this through education and technology programmes.

As soon I talked to Andrew, he laid down a challenge: Don’t limit the carbon you offset to what you’re generating through a single trip: what about the carbon emitted to support your everyday computing habits?

Much as I’d rather not think about this, it’s true. Immense quantities of pollution are caused by coal-fired power stations that feed the data centres owned by Microsoft, Facebook, nameless cloud providers and others. When we watch YouTube videos, listen to music and live our digital lives, we are contributing to global warming.

WithOneSeed have a handy App that can help anyone interested to determine how much carbon is emitted by their digital media habits (on phones and tablets at least).

The personal story from Andrew, and a better understanding of my daily data usage in context, has allowed me to zero in on a global issue all too easy to ignore.

So, I’ll donate to WithOneSeed to offset the carbon. Not just for my flight, but for my daily computing too.

As I get ready to travel back home to New Zealand, I’m thinking not only of what I’ll take back the communities I work in, but also about the unseen impacts of my personal technology choices. I guess that is what individual social responsibility is all about.

Do you know what impact your technology is having?

Acknowledgement: my trip to Washington DC is only possible with support from NetSquared/ TechSoup, @goodresearch, @nzdrug, and my fab partner Roz. My evolving storify is at: http://sfy.co/rPzq

Don’t get caught up with making it perfect

Cartoon, punchline: Just click the damn publish butotnWarning: this is something of a limbering up blog post. Some stretching to loosen a muscle dormant for quite some time.

Things have been very busy since I waved good bye to Beth Kanter in May.

Work on 2-3 projects at a time, my part-time role with Community Research, organising NetSquared Wellington events and sundry other distractions have inched there way between me and my blog.

Being an advocate for slowing down and making time for reflection, this hasn’t felt quite right. Where is the time I set aside to quietly shape ill formed ideas into something worthy of discussion? Were my gleanings just rotting away?

The longer I’ve left it, the harder it has been to restart.

Thanks to self proclaimed data nerd chris lysy from fresh spectrum this has changed.

From the twitter flow I fished up a reference to “22 bloggers with advice for researchers and evaluators, illustrated”.

After putting off staring the well structured and creatively presented post – largely because the 22 bloggers manage to share over 10,000 words of insights – I’ve just read it.

Advice from Chi Yan Lam – who is thinking about the intersection of program evaluation, design and social innovation – captures some of the thinking behind why I started blogging in 2004, and still really resonates:

I realized that the blog could be a space for my thinking. Instead of insisting on writing for an audience, I wrote for myself. I guess what this boils down to is this: Blogging is simply a platform. There are many successful models of blogging. The important thing is to make blogging goals consistent with one’s goals. Don’t Emulate. Create.

Cartoon caption: don't get caught up with making it perfectA post on blogging wouldn’t be complete without hearing from the aforementioned Beth ‘blogger extraordinaire’ Kanter, who said to chris:

Look at your blogging time as a form of professional development and a commitment to write something regularly. Don’t get caught up with making it perfect either

I’m don’t want to overdo my mental stretching. I’m feeling warmed up. Keys and finders in sync. I’ll be back. Soon? Soon!

Register now – Beth Kanter workshops in Aotearoa, May 2013

Photo of author and master trainer Beth Kanter, wearing red stetson

As the sun rose on the New Year it was pretty obvious the upheaval caused by social media will continue unabated. People still flock online to connect with others in lots of different ways.

Looking ahead it is hard to know what will rise, what will fall. Will the effects of Facebook’s share float permeate even further? Could Bebo make a comeback alongside MySpace? Will Pinterest keep rising?

Whatever happens to individual sites and services, we can be sure that social networking is here to stay.

A deep understanding of how online networking works, along with awareness of the sweeping demographic and cultural changes bubbling underneath the surface, can really help organisations thrive when communicating through social media. On the other hand, without a grasp of the big picture, using social media is something of a lottery.

Having an impact also takes knowing what works well. What truly engages people? To count “Likes” or “Retweets” is a start. Bigger questions about whether it’s worth it need a robust approach to measurement. And time to reflect too.

To grapple with these types of challenges I’ve invited someone I consider a true leader in social media use to run two workshops for community organisations and NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand. In May 2013 author, trainer and blogger Beth Kanter is coming to share her tried and tested frameworks, and knowledge of the practical application of social media practices from around the globe.

Ever since I met Beth at a workshop she ran at the Connecting Up conference in Brisbane in 2008 I’ve developed a very deep respect for her work. She generously shares her experience, is open to different cultures and always keeps a light touch.

I struggle to keep up with Beth’s prolific sharing on her blog, but I found her (short) book “The Networked Nonprofit” (2010), co-authored with Alison Fine, very helpful. I’m now half way through “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using data to change the world” (2012), co-authored with KD Paine.

My view on the benefits of digging more deeply into social media is shared by my workshop co-hosts. I’m delighted Mangere East Family Service Centre and Volunteering Auckland are coming on board to each co-host one of the workshops. Support from The Tindall Foundation and Connecting Up is a big help too.

If 2013 is the year you want to extend your organisation’s social media use, come along to one of the workshops:

  • “Improving social networking practice with measurement” workshop
    A full day workshop and peer learning network, intermediate level, Saturday 11 May, Mangere, South Auckland. More information and registration page
  • “Be networked, use measurement and make sense of your data” workshop
    A half day workshop, introductory level, 1pm Monday 13 May, Auckland. Registrations open next week

Don’t expect Beth to tell you which social networks are best for your organisation. Nor to predict what is the up and coming one to get into. However, you will walk away with insights that will help you deepen your practice using social media.

Take me to the social web workshop, a report

When I met Beth Kanter after having read her blog for several years she made a real impression on me. It wasn’t just her committed personal activism, wide ranging knowledge and willingness to share, so much as her phenomenal connectedness that struck me. Set loose on the keyboard and she connects with people, for just causes.

During a one-day workshop after the Connecting Up 08 conference a small group of 20 or so got see what it means to be really connected online.

It soon became obvious she has formed connections online with hundreds and hundreds of people. These might be people she’s worked with in depth, somebody she chatted to at a conference, or just someone who has accidentally found her online.

When she needs to, as she did when fundraising for the Sharing Foundation in Cambodia, Beth will (carefully) reach out to her networks. At other times she’ll ask people for help with research for an article or presentation she’s making, or as the example she gave us, ask what is the best sim card to use in Australia.

I have no doubt this is reciprocal. Beth is happy for people to know about what she is doing and is very open about this. She blogs in several places, has a twitter account anyone can follow, is on facebook, has an avatar on second life and is out there in numerous other places too no doubt.

The types of relationships formed transcend any easy description. Friend, colleague, fellow-professional, neighbour, supporter? It’s hard to know how to describe members of the online network Beth has built up. It probably doesn’t matter, but what it suggests is that when you match the internet medium with trust and reciprocity you get a pretty powerful combination.

There might be a drawback to all this. It would seem that Beth lives a very online life. Perhaps one which means you’ve got to be stuck in front of a computer. Interminably.

As I’m Twitter-averse and Facebook challenged, I don’t imagine myself joining let along creating such networks. Even though they could be immensely valuable, my introspective side flares up when I think about it. This ultra connectedness is not for everyone. Nor should it be, for the internet really is about people having choice. However, I do now really understand the potential of creating networks, particularly for organisations.

There are ways of managing the temptations of constant, ubiquitous connectivity. Beth talked about how she keeps things under control. She has at times designated Twitter Tuesdays, or Facebook Fridays. And it’s obvious she communicates on her on terms (ie seldom instantly unless the time is right).

And before you think Beth is baring all (something she has done, see the Beth 5.0 flickr photo set), when we go online it’s obvious we only present the parts of ourselves we want others to see. That is, we use a persona. It’s a word that came out during the workshop as another online survival gambit.

So, what was it that we actually covered in the workshop? The day long session was a practical how-to advice on using social media, including a chance for Beth to share some of her frameworks.

Beth introduced a common sense framework for community and voluntary organisations wanting to use new online tools. The three basic steps are:

  1. Listen
  2. Join the conversation
  3. Experiment. Start by blogging.

Capturing what you learn as you go was considered pretty important. Beth suggested using a learning diary and saving material on a shared wiki or web page. Other participants suggested giving permission for team members to experiment with the web on the condition they report to the rest of the team.

The main point to underline is permission to explore social media in your own time, on your own terms.

You can take a look at the record of the workshop (and part instructional tool) at http://take-to-the-social-web.wikispaces.com.

My biggest takeaway (a north American colloquialism which stands in for “what I learned today”): online networks can involve new people and reinvigorate others to get active or give.

A loud happy yelp goes out to Beth, an avid dog lover. Thanks for coming all way down under.